David Cooper – over 40 years in real estate and still going strong

David Cooper (on right), recipient of the Winston-Salem Assn. of Realtors Hall of Fame award in 2013, with his wife Ernestine Cooper and son Alton Cooper.

David Cooper – over 40 years in real estate and still going strong
February 25
11:33 2019

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

It’s a good thing that David Cooper didn’t listen to the naysayers when he decided to start a real estate business.

In 1975 he was told, “The economy is bad,” “interest rates are too high,” “it’s too risky to go into real estate.” Cooper decided the time was right for him – if he could make it in bad times, he could make it when the good times came.

Cooper grew up on a farm in Hemingway, South Carolina, where he learned the value of hard work and a strong work ethic. He came to Winston-Salem to attend Winston-Salem State University and after graduation, worked in the airlines industry. The job was good, but after 14 years it had become routine. He was bored. He wanted a new challenge. During a visit with his brother who lived in California, Cooper mentioned that he was looking for something else to do and his brother, who was in real estate, suggested that he consider real estate. Cooper was looking for an opportunity to connect with people on a more personal level and this seemed like the perfect fit.

Cooper earned his real estate brokers license in 1975 and worked briefly for another company before striking out on his own. In 1977 he became the first African-American in the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors®. Cooper remembers buying his first house and having no one to help him through the hurdles of getting a mortgage. He knew he wanted to help others buy their first homes and to guide them through the process of one of the most important decisions a person will ever make.

Over 40 years later, Cooper Realty is still going strong. Cooper says, “I’ve never had a bad year, even during housing slumps.”  During recessions, he maintained his business on a conservative basis and planned for downtimes by investing in rental properties and partnering with Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association.

Cooper doesn’t pay much attention to negative news and says, “When things got rough, I just worked harder.” Based on company size, Cooper Realty has been the number one seller for several years, averaging about 100 houses sold a year. Cooper says, “ … just be honest with folks and do the right things, you’ll succeed.”

Cooper Realty is a family business, which includes his wife Ernestine, son Alton, and brother Sam. Cooper gives credit for his success, “first to Creator God be the glory,” and to his wife, who he calls his “silent partner.” Cooper said, “My desire is to work with people and help people be homeowners, especially first-time buyers.” His proudest moments are when someone tells him, “I just paid off my house.” He is now selling homes to the children – and grandchildren – of people he first sold a home to when he was starting out.

Cooper has seen a lot of changes in the industry since he began over 40 years ago. He remembers the days of MLS (Multiple Listing Service) books where you had to wait for paper updates, so you were always behind on new listings. With today’s technology, new listings are immediate and accessible through his phone. “I can show a house and if they ask if there is anything else available in that neighborhood, I can immediately pull up every listing there, by price or size,” he commented. He added concerning technology, “Unless you move with it, you will be left behind.”

Cooper also stressed that today’s homebuyer is different from when he started out. They are more educated and shop smarter. They are more apt to use technology to search for a home. Cooper said he has sold homes to people he has never met and who never personally saw the home until after they purchased it. It was all done over the Internet.

Although he loves what he does, he still finds time for his hobbies: traveling, fishing and photography. He started taking pictures of his own listings when he first started out in real estate and has continued ever since, although now it’s with more sophisticated cameras. He also takes pictures for his church, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, and has taken a few weddings and birthday parties. He was recognized by his church on Feb. 16 for his contributions to the community. He started Cooper Realty Scholarship Fund 13 years ago in partnership with his church and each year they give a $2,000 scholarship to a deserving student.

Cooper was also recognized as a Realtor Emeritus in 2017 for his 40 years of membership in the Association of Realtors and was inducted into the Realtors Hall of Fame in 2013.

For people who are considering going into the real estate field, Cooper says, “You have to love it because you are going to live it, eat it, and sleep it.”  He added, “I play real estate. It’s not work to me.”

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